The First 90 Days on the Job Can Reveal the Ugly

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Janelle was asked to work from Suds N' Duds until the office expansion was complete.

Janelle was asked to work from Suds N’ Duds until the office expansion was complete.

Last Valentine’s Day, I compared recruiting to dating.  In that first blush of meeting, all you can really see is what’s great about the other person. And you can usually keep whatever’s wrong with you on the down low.  But then you hire the person. Thus begins…the first 90 days.

The first 90 days in a work relationship is a lot like the first 90 days in a romance. You’re spending a lot of time together. Perhaps seeing each other’s homes. Suddenly, it’s tougher to conceal that you’re a slob, or an anal retentive neat freak, or in possession of a really scary number of graphic novels.

This is when you figure out whether this relationship has promise. And it starts with that first day. If the employee turns up late or unprepared on the first day, you got problems. Conversely, before that employee arrives, you should have set up a business email, computer and a desk chair.  For some new employees, it’s not day one and maybe not even day two that these basic tools are provided.  The employee is forced to wander around like a nomad, imposing on total strangers with no idea who will be cool with that and who will be completely annoyed.

I’ve known companies that were like “We are a very casual and laid back environment. We need someone who can deal with ambiguity and be flexible. We’re going to give them the truth of us and let them just jump in and figure it out.”


Essentially what you’re saying is you’re not that into them. You don’t care enough about the relationship to let them know who you are or what you need. You won’t give them enough to go on to do a good job for you. You’re flying around by the seat of your pants and they’re on their own.  You’ve just established the level of respect you can both expect from this relationship.

Think about it. That’s like asking someone to dinner and then not communicating where or when until the last minute and then at dinner spending more time checking your Facebook and Twitter feeds then actually engaging in conversation. It’s kind of like: “Oh, are you here? I’d forgotten.” This relationship doesn’t look good.

And how would you like it if the employee, seeing your lackadaisical attitude, started coming in “whenever,” dressing like a slob and talking much more about the concert she went to last weekend than the project that’s due next week?

She’s showing “the truth of her.” Figure that out.

Now you have to say the dreaded words: “We need to talk.”  Now you and your employee have strikes against your relationship. And it all looked so good on Match.com.

That first day is huge. Make sure you have the employee’s work space ready. Appoint someone to show her where the bathroom and the break room are, and how to file an expense report. Have someone take her to lunch and answer questions. That gives her boundaries and clarity to work from. It also says “We’re glad you’re here. You’re important to the team. We want you to feel comfortable.”

Make it clear how you treat people and how you expect to be treated, and anybody who can’t work in those parameters will reveal himself pretty rapidly.

Just like in a romantic relationship, the key to a good work relationship is communication. Make sure yours starts from the jump. So the first 90 days aren’t the last.


We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.    





We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.